June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada, a time to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Now more than ever, it’s important to amplify Indigenous voices, experiences, and stories, and to acknowledge the lived truths of Indigenous peoples, including those of our BCIT alumni and instructors. The following are a few examples of how Indigenous peoples in Canada from the BCIT community have shared their vibrant stories, overcome adversity, and made a difference.
Victoria Dupuis had been supporting herself working full time since she was 15. Feeling burned out from working as a professional cook for 15 years, she worried that her options were limited because she did not graduate high school traditionally. It was by coincidence that Victoria met a female welder at a mutual friend’s baby shower, and her interest in welding was immediately sparked. With support from Indigenous Services, Victoria is now a proud alumna of the BCIT Welding Foundation program working full-time in her field at Fabwell Industries.
Brandon Darbyshire-Joesph is a big believer that “every generation can do better.” The BCIT Ironworking alumnus’ passion for creating positive change was forged from a family history pitted with challenges, from the after effects of surviving residential school (his grandmother), to divorce (his parents), to the reality of racism in Canada (Brandon himself). All the while, Brandon knew an education and hard work would open up opportunities, transforming life for the better. Brandon attended the BCIT Ironworker program and later became the first First Nations person in BC to earn his Red Seal certification. Now, as a member of the Squamish First Nation council, he encourages Indigenous youth to consider careers in the trades.
BCIT Level 4 Machinist alumna Jazmine Morrison applied to the BCIT Machinist program and received a scholarship for admission with support from ACCESS, the Aboriginal Community Career Employment Services Society. While she encountered a series of challenges during her time at BCIT, including balancing studying with being a single mom and caring for her grandfather, Jazmine says she got through it with the support of her family, and continued support with financial aid and resources for tutoring from ACCESS.
BCIT alumna Savannah Minoose-Erasmus says she went into the BCIT Broadcast and Online Journalism Diploma with the goal of amplifying Indigenous voices and stories. Upon graduating, Savannah was hired as a Project Coordinator with the Indigenous Youth Wellness Team at the Provincial Health Services Authority where, pre-COVID, she travelled to small communities facilitating culturally relevant wellness projects like music or dance workshops. She also works on the Indigenous wellness podcast Teachings in the Air, providing traditional stories, lessons, and cultural knowledge to people in order to inspire, motivate, and empower Indigenous peoples. Savannah is a Cree-Metis storyteller, content creator, and journalist from Kikino, Alberta.
5. Forging paths: $1M donation from Gene Haas Foundation paves the way for BCIT students through faculty like Indigenous Red Seal machinist Chelsea Barron
BCIT Machinist alumna Chelsea Barron says her driving inspiration in life was her grandmother Angelina, who hunted on horseback, was a residential school survivor, and a fierce mother of nine children. Chelsea, a member of the Tsilhqot’in (Chilcotin) Nation, is a Red Seal Machinist and, after working in the industry for eight years, is now BCIT Machinist Faculty. “When you think about the traditional background for Indigenous peoples, you see how similar it is to an apprenticeship,” she explains. “My family and relatives grew up in an apprenticeship way of life that was passed down to me. They showed us how to build, fish, hunt. It is a traditional way of growing up and learning in the community.” Chelsea is leading the next generation of women in trades. Learn more about Chelsea and the renovations going on at BCIT’s Machine Shop by watching the video.
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